Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Remember When . . . The Gang Was All Together?

Okay, I just spent a ridiculous amount of time doctoring that photo that you can barely see in the title image, trying to make this Edwardian family at least pretend to match mine, LOL. Anyway...

In a month, you'll get to meet The Family. The group of orphans and outcasts and misfits that have decided to stick together at all costs. To love each other. To sacrifice for each other. To beg, borrow, and steal to take care of each other. You're about to meet a gang of thieves with a strange code of honor. The family of the Shadows Over England Series.

I hope you like them as much as I do.

In a perfect world, y'all will love this series so much that books will fly off the shelves and my publisher will be begging me to extend the series (ahem). In all likelihood, we'll have only the three I've already sold to them, focusing on the eldest of the twelve children in this family--Rosemary Gresham, Willa Forsythe, and Barclay Pearce. But I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to the rest of the gang and tell you a bit about them, since the books, in an effort not to overwhelm you with names and identities, keep those details sparse.

For the purposes of this list, ages given are as they are in A Name Unknown.

The leader of this patchwork clan and hero of book 3, Barclay is the quintessential "big brother." Overprotective and often accused (lovingly) of being a tyrant, he's the one who set out the rules--never steal from those worse off, never give a gift that was stolen, etc--and enforces them. Though the other "siblings" occasionally resent him, they also adore him. He's the one who teaches them all how to blend in with society, though no one's quite sure how he learned. He's remained decidedly mum about his early history; he met Rosemary and Willa when he was about 11.

Our heroine in book 1, Rosemary is a Cockney girl whose parents died of fever when she was 8. Barkeeper Pauly found her rooting through his garbage and introduced her to Barclay and Willa. She's a whiz with a needle and can create clothing for them all to ensure they blend in when they sneak into galas in search of pretty baubles. And she's also a whiz with languages. It's the fact that she taught herself German for the British Museum heist that gets her the attention of Mr. V...which sets the whole series in motion.

WILLA (23)
Heroine in book 2, Willa is a cynical, untrusting young woman . . . and a violin prodigy. Abandoned by her parents when she was 6, Willa carried emotional baggage far heavier than her violin case--and is quite happy to stay forever with the family that chose her, and who she chose. So long as she has her beat-up instrument and the little stump of a stage that Pauly built for her in his pub, she'll be just fine.

RETTA (21)
 There's always a lover of beauty to be found in the dirtiest streets, and that's Retta. Art is her passion...and copying it her gift. Which translates to very helpful skills like forging invitations to events...or documents, passports, and the like. Orphaned in a fire when she was 5, the original trio took her in that night, and she's never looked back.

One of the oldest of the siblings but one of the newer additions to the family, Georgie hasn't ever quite submitted to Barclay's authority--but he's so stinking endearing about it that they all just roll their eyes and give him a hug. Georgie is one of the first to sign up when war is declared--can't beat 3 square meals a day, right?--and the family can't stop missing him, disobedience and all.

Ellie, it must be said, is getting far too pretty. And pretty doesn't blend in well, so they have to be very careful which jobs they give her these days--restrictions she chafes under. And of course, the less the family lets her do, the more determined she is to prove herself. Elinor generally puts on her very-pretty smile, but it's sometimes by sheer determination--she's the only member of the family who was a part of, and then escaped, the orphanage and work house system.

LUCY (16)
 Lucy was only a baby the night that same fire that orphaned Retta left her homeless as well. She remembers nothing but the family that took her in. They can tell by looking at her, of course, that she has a bit of India flowing in her veins, and the assumptions people in London make when they see her means that she can blend in perfectly with the servant class whenever she needs to find something out about a house or family. She's also just discovering a true passion for baking and cooking.

At that age when she's not quite a child and not quite a grown-up, Cress is still sheltered from the family "business"...and eager to become a part of it and truly be one of them.

Possessed with a sharp mind--and an equally sharp tongue--ginger-haired Fergus never minds telling people how it is, or how he wants it to be. And how can anyone turn down his freckle-faced charm? He's perfectly at home in the family that took him in six years ago and can't imagine life without them.

JORY (8)
Little Marjory has known nothing but the family either--and is a sister after Barclay's own heart, always having a book in hand. You won't ever hear her say much, but she quietly wraps the older ones around her finger and holds them there with a grin.

Nigel might have physically blended in better with another gang, being of African descent, but his heart is all the family's. He was another of Pauly's rescues, and never regrets for a minute choosing to put his hand in Barclay's and make their home his three years before.

The youngest of the crew, Olivia was just a tot when Rosemary and Willa found her in the arms of her dying mother, who begged them to see her to safety. They, of course, obliged and took her in. They don't even know her last name, but that's all right--when she's old enough, she can choose one of theirs.

Quite the gang, eh? I'm still getting to know some of them myself, but it's a joy to do so. They each have their quirks and charms, and I can't wait to introduce you all more thoroughly in the pages of the books! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2nd Annual British Blooms and Books Giveaway!

Hello, gentle reader, and welcome to the second annual British Blooms and Books giveaway! This week, we’d like to celebrate the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show. After enjoying this post, please visit each of the other five authors’ blogs (links provided below) and, after a bit of reading fun, follow one simple instruction and then leave a comment on each blog. You’ll be entered to win a fabulous, British Blooms and Books prize. (US winners only, please, due to shipping the petit fours.) Enjoy, and thank you for stopping by!

There's nothing quite like an English garden. On my tour of the Cotswolds and Cornwall (with a brief stop in Devonshire) last autumn, my family enjoyed little more than being set free to explore the beautiful grounds of the houses we toured, or frolicking about the rugged cliffs of Land's End.

We saw the stunning terraced gardens of St. Michael's Mount, in Cornwall, from above.

We saw the most perfect rose, still wet with rain, in the gardens of a manor house that had once been an abbey, in the Cotswolds.

We wandered the paths of Knightshayes's expansive gardens in Devonshire.

But for all the beauty and appeal of a formal flowerbed, of carefully plotted and potted and planted gardens, sometimes it's the wild that appeals most to us. Sometimes it's the accidental beauty, or the little bits that God positioned just so for us. Perhaps it's the purple heather or the yellow-sprigged gorse or the white wildflowers growing beside a cliff...

Or perhaps it's something as simple as a dandelion--a little burst of yellow blooming where it shouldn't. A little ray of sunshine, too often overlooked or dismissed as a nuisance.

In A Lady Unrivaled, Ella is quite determined not to be charmed by the scowling Lord Cayton, who has broken too many hearts before--fortuitous, because Cayton is quite determined not to do any charming. But when an impromptu walk through the gardens of Ralin Castle, still not quite in bloom, lead them out to the gardener's shed, they happen upon one of those weeds that the gardener would no doubt obliterate.

Just a dandelion. Nothing special. But when Cayton's toddler daughter shows delight with the spot of yellow, Cayton picks two of them. Gives one to his daughter and hands the other to Ella.

An admission that sometimes, as Ella had just insisted, you can find a reason to smile even when you shouldn't. That sometimes, even when there are clouds overhead, you can find a little patch of sunshine.

Sometimes, what the world dismisses can be the most treasured beauty of all.

Ella's optimism is perhaps what makes her A Lady Unrivaled . . . and Cayton's moods can't ever stand long against her. I hope you have a chance to read more about this unlikely couple, and the other adventures they have in a Cotswolds garden--not to mention the dangers and adventure they face as they work together to trap a villain haunting both their families. PLEASE SIGN UP FOR MY NEWSLETTER (current subscribers, you've already done this step!) and comment below for a chance to win A Lady Unrivaled as well as the other amazing books in the giveaway, plus a sweet set of tea hat petit fours to enjoy while you read!

Giveaway Rules:
Photo from Divine Delights
One grand prize winner who comments on each of the six authors’ blogs and agrees to the one boldfaced condition posted at the end of each post will win a signed copy of each of the books plus delivery of six English hat petit fours to enjoy while you read! Name will be drawn via

Finished? Well done! Please visit these other fabulous authors of England-set historicals to see what flowers mean to them and their heroines.